My story about Brent Walsh from I The Mighty
I went back and forth about posting this on my main account. After getting some overwhelmingly positive and loving support from my friends and coworkers, I decided this would be better told straight from me than an anonymous account.
It’s been just about five years and this is not any easier to write.
On July 5th, 2015, Brent Walsh of I The Mighty sexually assaulted me.
I actually met Brent for the first time at Warped Tour 2014. I was 18. My two best girl friends at the time and I were obsessed with I The Mighty. I think earlier in the day, Brent and Ian did an acoustic set under a tent, and that’s where I met Brent briefly for the first time. I have a selfie with him from my old, decrepit android phone, expressed how much I loved his music, and went on my way. We then stayed for the full band set and met him again afterward to buy merch and get things signed. My friends and I took some more pics with Brent and we were on our way. Nothing weird there, but it was the start of something that was at first very exciting, then led to years of inner turmoil.
First time I met Brent pics:
Brent had at one point posted his Snapchat to either his Twitter bio, or in a tweet, or something. It was publicly available. I added him, because duh, I thought he was cute and my dumb 18-year-old brain was like “maybe he’ll give me some attention!” There’s no secret that an 18-year-old in the music scene would be thirsty for a dude like him.
We got to know each other better over Snapchat, sharing other music interests (Death Cab For Cutie + Circa Survive being big ones we bonded over) and of course, things got sexual quickly. He knew I was 18, and yes, I understand it’s legal, but he was a decent chunk older than me.
At first, it was super fun and entirely consensual. It felt nice to have his attention in that manner, and I had never been in such a relationship with someone I had idolized before, so of course, I wanted to keep him happy.
But the latter part of that sentence is where things start to go wrong. He would get slightly aggressive or upset when I would refuse. I lived at home at the time, and Brent would be hitting me up at all hours of the night to send him nudes to satiate him. If I ever refused, or straight up didn’t want to, or if I was at family’s house/a friend’s house, etc, he’d beg me to go sneak away or take some sneaky pics in the bathroom. This quickly went from playful and fun to “if I don’t do this, he’ll stop talking to me and I won’t feel special anymore. I need to do this to keep HIM happy” which is problematic and abusive in its own right, but that’s super not easy for an 18-year-old to see or understand. I let this go on for a really long time.
I The Mighty was coming back around the following year to play a show with Enter Shikari. Brent and I had made some plans to meet up and have sex. He refused to have sex in the van because he told me their drummer Blake D. was against it, which I understood, and I honestly was having a panic attack trying to figure out where we could get intimate so I could keep him happy. I also wanted to, or at least I thought I did.
The same friend group from Warped squadded up to head to that show, and we had a blast. We were front row, dancing and singing our hearts out. After their set, which was early, Chris Hinkley (ITM’s bassist) comes up to us and introduces himself. He was so excited to see fans stoked on their new music and knowing all of the words. He gave us a bunch of hugs and we all became fast friends and the band's crew hung around my crew most of the night. I definitely briefly met Ian Pedigo and Blake Dahlinger at this point in time too, but Chris and Brent were the two I was talking to the most.
After their set, Brent decided it was time to figure out where we were going to get intimate. He convinced me to coerce my friend who drove into giving me her car keys (I’m sorry if you’re reading this, I’m not sure if I ever told you this part because after everything I was ashamed). I grabbed her car keys and told her I’d put everyone’s merch away so they could enjoy the rest of the show without being over-encumbered and told them that Brent and I were going on a walk. At this point, my friends knew that Brent and I were friends via Snapchat. They probably suspected something was up, who wouldn’t? They would have been right.
We went to the local college’s parking garage where the car was parked and because it was a cold April night, we turned up the heat and went into the back seat. Brent pulled out a condom and I explicitly asked him not to finish inside of me. I was paranoid that the condom would break and I wasn’t on birth control, all things I divulged to him prior and in the moment. He promised me he wouldn’t and we proceeded to have sex in the back of my friend’s car. When he pulled out of me, what I didn’t realize was that he DID finish inside of me. He was trying to get the condom off when I heard him go “oh, oh no. oh my god, I’m sorry.” I started to panic and I asked him what’s wrong, and he told me the condom had broken, showed it to me, and apologized for not listening to me because he definitely had finished inside of me. I was so paranoid of getting pregnant and he ended up walking me to the nearest CVS and buying me Plan B. I took it right away and he handed me his leather jacket to put on for the walk back to the venue. Honestly, he handled this situation well for having completely ignored my wishes. He apologized, did what he could to make it right, and was sweet to me for the remainder of the night.
I literally have a picture of us standing next to each other AFTER that had all went down. I look disheveled and a tad worried, but just happy to be there. In the weeks after that incident, Brent texted me a total of one time – three days later – checking on me and asking how I felt and carrying on a dumb conversation. He went dark after that for a while, not really snapchatting or texting (at this point he had given me his phone number) me back. This made me feel completely alone and discarded, but helped me get over the mental hurdles of “this guy doesn’t want a relationship with you, he just wants to hook up and you’re the girl he does that with when he’s here.” Eventually, I came to terms with that, but I had just turned 19 at this time and I was starved for affection - as most teenagers are.
Pic of us taken after we got back to the venue: https://imgur.com/a/NyrAWTB
I ended up adding Ian Pedigo on Snapchat as well when Brent went dark. And to no one’s surprise, a simple attempt at some compliments to selfies and strengthening a bond with a band I adored turned into soliciting nudes. I sent nudes to Ian on a couple of occasions, but not nearly as much as I did with Brent.
After a while, the Snapchats from Brent picked back up again, and because he was who I had the hots for in the first place, I curved Ian and gradually stopped responding to those advances. Our code word for Brent wanting to fuck around was “Bob’s Burgers”, I think that’s because the first time it ever happened I told him I was watching an episode of that in bed. He told me that he’d be back around in the summer.
In the time between then and July, my best friend and I got matching tattoos with I The Mighty lyrics on them. “You won’t get by alone,” they say, a line from the chorus of “Embers”. The group loved it, everyone did, and Brent said he was so excited to see it in person.
There we are, July 5th, 2015. I had just gotten over being sick with a sinus infection and I was roaring and ready to go see my pals – the I The Mighty dudes. The usual crew makes its way up there with me and we have an absolute blast. I make a friend out of their merch guy - Blake Kunkel - at the time, and he proves to be the most solid, supportive, amazing friend throughout the rest of what follows. I have group pics from that night, too, as well as a picture taken by my friend (a photographer) of Brent singling me out in the crowd and placing the neck of his guitar on my head in a cute, playful way. It’s a sweet image. I wish I could look back on it fondly.
Here's that picture: https://imgur.com/a/yqE7x8Y
It’s the end of the night and we ask if the crew is headed to their next destination right away or if they have an off day. We learn the next day is free, and we offer them to drive an hour or so back with us to get food and have a safe place to sleep. They happily agree and the entire crew including their tour managers come with us. This is when things start to get weird.
Brent texts me and is looking for clarity on the situation with Ian. I think Ian might have gotten some mixed signals, rightfully so since I sort of just ghosted/kept curving him instead of using my words to tell him I wasn’t interested, and he might have talked about wanting to hook up with me. This rang in Brent’s head and he wanted to understand the situation.
The following screenshots are our conversation. If the night had stopped there, I wouldn’t be writing any of this. At all. Because I was a dumb 19-year-old girl who wanted affection, and I knew that I was just a hook up for Brent and nothing more, I didn’t think it would hurt him if I allowed for the attention to come from Ian. Or from anyone for that matter. He expressed that it upset him, and I deeply apologized and got clarity for the situation myself. He was expressing himself honestly and candidly, or so it seemed, and I do not fault him for this. I wish I had all of the screenshots, but I don’t, but after this conversation, he asked if we were good. I said yes, and thanked him for talking to me about it. Again, I acknowledge it’s kind of shitty to do that to someone’s homie, but you need the context that:
1. I was young and drunk off of the romantic attention I was getting from these guys. I am 5 years older now with more experience under my belt and obviously, you live and you learn.
2. Brent and I were not dating, had no intention of dating, and he didn’t OWN ME.
See all screenshots from this conversation here: https://imgur.com/a/OYm2MiB
We finally got to the place where we were eating, which I still have videos of the guys in line ordering pizza. Chris and I were good platonic friends at this time and I end up spending the whole dinner socializing with him and my new friend, Blake K., because Brent was actively ignoring me. I knew I had upset him so I didn’t press, I let him be. It dug at me that he was flirting with my two female friends, but again, I thought I had deserved it (for, again, doing literally nothing wrong other than receiving attention from his friend when we WERE NOT DATING).
We get back to my friend’s house which had enough spots to sleep everyone. Chris and the tour managers decide to sleep in the van anyway because they were in a new place and wanted to be sure their equipment was safe, Blake K. slept in the basement bedroom, Blake D. didn’t come back with us because he had family elsewhere close by, Brent had a guest room upstairs, and we thought Ian was going to sleep on the couch. Turns out Ian decided to go get some with a girl that had traveled out of her way to sleep with him. Good for him (assuming that everything that happened was consensual), he left quietly in the middle of the night and didn’t return until the next morning.
Brent, Blake K., my friend who lived in the house, and I were up for another hour or so bullshitting in the kitchen. I was still feeling nervous to be around him knowing he wasn’t happy with me. I told my friend that I would be staying in her bedroom and that was the plan.
Brent throws a curveball and says “No, you’re staying with me tonight.”
My response: “uh, what?”
Brent: “You put your stuff in my room. You’re staying with me tonight.”
My stuff was still on my back - I was wearing a drawstring backpack. I thought that maybe he wanted to talk things out face to face and make amends, I had no reason (in my dumb, naïve 19-year-old brain) that this man would want to hurt me.
We go into the bedroom together and I’m getting ready for bed when he starts kissing me. I reciprocate and we make out for a while and I let his hands wander. I stop him for a second and tell him I’m on my period and I don’t feel comfortable having sex. He tries to convince me otherwise, coming up with ideas like grabbing towels or just doing it anyway. I didn’t want to ruin things in my friend’s home so I kept saying no over and over again. He was pouting and made me feel bad, which he then used to coerce me into giving him oral sex. At some point during that, he tried to have sex with me again. He put his hands down the front of my pants and kept saying things like “come on, just let me fuck you” to which I kept saying no.
That’s when he got on top of me, grabbed my throat, and squeezed tightly. He leaned in really close and said “tell me you’d fuck me if you weren’t on your period.”
I laid there staring at him, frozen. Terrified.
He squeezed harder and said it again “tell me you’d fuck me if you weren’t on your period.”
My only way out of that situation was to say yes. I choked a yes out and tried nodding my head, which I guess was enough for him. He released his grip, fell back onto the bed right next to me, put on the tv, and fell asleep while holding me. I was frozen. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t leave the room. I didn’t want to tell my friend what happened. I bet the guys wouldn’t believe me if I told them either. I just sat with it and got no sleep that night.
It’s worth noting without a doubt that he didn’t do this because he wanted sexual pleasure. He was doing this because he wanted to assert dominance over me for hurting his feelings. Our text conversation should have been enough.
He could have refused the offer to come back with us and stay in RI. He could have slept alone that night. He didn't because he wanted to prove something.
I crawled out of bed early the next morning before Brent and met up with Chris Hinkley and some others drinking coffee in the kitchen and playing with my friend’s dog. We hung out in the front for a bit waiting for Ian to show back up from his excursion before they left. Brent actually ended up leaving his phone charger in the room, so I texted him and we met up with them down the road at a Jiffy Lube to give it back. That was that. I kept everything that happened to me inside for a while, divulging info to some trusted friends removed from the situation here and there. Over time, my attitude towards it shifted from fear, to “oh my god he just wanted me to know he really likes me” and getting attached to him again, to “oh shit, I was assaulted. What happened was assault.”
Pics / screenshots from video from the pizza place the night before and morning after - including Brent finally following me back on Instagram that afternoon: https://imgur.com/a/6GrjKwC
Sexual assault takes on many forms. And sometimes, when you’re infatuated with the person who hurt you at the time, it’s hard to see it for what it is. It took me YEARS to come to terms with the fact that this was assault. I wanted to believe that he just really, really wanted me. That he aggressively wanted to get physical with me because he wanted to prove to me that he liked me and wanted to make amends. After telling my story to many trusted friends, it became abundantly clear that what he did was to assert dominance over me. To place ownership on my body and my mind. That’s what an abuser does.
Since I was too afraid to tell my friends that were there that night, I continued going to I The Mighty shows for a few years. The last one I went to was on a Coheed tour and I was in a new relationship at the time. Brent tried to hang out with me that night but I shrugged it off and left. That was the last time I saw or heard from him.
In 2017, I was newly broken up with that boyfriend I mentioned before. I took an incredibly freeing trip to San Francisco because I had some friends out there, and honestly, at this time, I was still good friends with Chris Hinkley.
I had told Chris about the encounter, and at this time I had also told Blake K. who ended up quitting to work for another band. Chris seemed to have believed me, but the inaction speaks volumes.
When I was on the trip to SF, I wanted to meet up with Chris and hang out, but he seemed waffley and I figured Brent was the reason why. I just ended up using this as an opportunity to block everyone associated with the band on all social media for a good long while - except for Blake K.
I am not absolved of being a dumb teenager, but I do not deserve what happened to me. And I have been terrified to speak publicly about this ever since because I’ve heard about him saying scary things to other women he has hurt. Yes, I have heard stories of him doing disgusting things to other women.
I am okay and stronger than ever. I still have issues with anxiety and depression, but overall, I'm good. But the point of me speaking out here is to raise awareness to other women so that they don't fall into the same traps I did.
Brent, if you’re reading this - I bet, at this point, you want to hit me where it hurts. You’ve already done enough damage to me and it would just make you look even worse to retaliate.
I will never be willing to forgive you for what you’ve done, and if what I’ve heard over the years is correct, you’re a pretty terrible person for having done similar things to other women. Especially knowing (after the fact) that you were in a relationship at some point during this whole saga.
You have to realize that speaking out about this is something I need to do to save other women from getting involved and hurt. If you want to change, if you want to prove to me that you’re even the tiniest bit sorry, here are some steps you can take.
1. Make a substantial donation to RAINN and pledge to match this donation or exceed it yearly.
2. Make a public apology addressing the fact that you have hurt someone (me), that you have probably hurt multiple people, and that you were using your perceived position of power to get what you wanted from YOUNG women.
3. Attend extensive therapy.
4. Be better.
I don’t want money. I don’t want praise. I don’t want to press charges. I just want to speak my story.